9/10 – Kit Rathenar
Melodic Black Metal [Indie Recordings]
Never was a record more aptly titled than Welcome Farewell. I think Vreid have abandoned us for good, because this album rings out like a distant, glorious echo trailing in the wake of a band who are six mountaintops away already and vanishing further into the wild skies of black metal legend with every chord. While the music remains as accessible, forceful and well-executed as you’d expect from those who gave us Pitch Black Brigade and Milorg, there’s an indefinable but intense overlay here of distance, of dissolution; a misty, mythic quality that’s both present in the music itself, and sustained and emphasised by the lyrics. Opener “The Ramble” begins with a slow, moody, majestic intro that sets the tone perfectly, and is explicitly literal in its setting-out of the themes of journeying, search and departure that are pretty much constant throughout the album; “The Devil’s Hand” in turn offers us “They see me coming, but they look away / I am a shadow!” Threaded through the melodies of Welcome Farewell I can feel the same emotional and spiritual call that pulled me into black metal in the first place, years ago now. I don’t know where Vreid have gone but this album gives me an overwhelming desire to go chasing off into the night after them, and it’s damn good to have that feeling again. Well done, gentlemen, and thank you.
The music? Hovering around the mid-tempo, strong in the bass and clear in the treble, carried on powerful, cantering rhythms and with a solid foundation in the thrash-black-n-roll style that made Vreid’s reputation in the first place. Sture’s vocals are, as usual, an assertive, throaty rasp, with no trace here of the more experimental styles that were lurking on previous album V. The guitar and bass tones are full, rich, and warm, the riffs tuneful and catchy, the solos piercing and wild; and there’s no shortage of technical mastery or creative variety, either. The title track features a quasi-acoustic segment in the tradition of Bathory and Immortal, a delicate, evocative interplay of guitar and bass; “Sights of Old” starts out with Vreid’s rawest thrash influences burning their way to the fore, and then breaks down in a series of slower, guitar-led bridges whose only purpose seems to be to indulge the band’s love of playing (and I mean that as praise, not criticism – there’s nothing better than hearing great musicians play great music purely for the joy of it). The only slight weak link for me is “Way of the Serpent”, which, while a good song in itself, is the one track that doesn’t seem to fit with the conceptual vibe of the others and breaks the flow of the album a little at the start. Others may disagree with me, though, and certainly overall Welcome Farewell is nothing less than a triumph.